Wednesday, October 27, 2010
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS 1:16-17
(16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (17) For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
Verse 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Paul had hated the Lord Christ and His Gospel; the world thought this Gospel was weak and foolish; the wise thought that it was stupid, unintellectual and unphilosophical; mere professors think that it is out of date, behind the times, supplanted by learning and eloquence; others that it is a feeble, childish thing (1 Cor. 1:18-24). By grace Paul was ashamed of himself, that ever he should be ashamed of our Lord and His Gospel. He now “glories only in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. ) and he later stood in this very city in captivity rejoicing in his bonds since they had led to the furtherance of the Gospel (Phil. ). When the stern demands of God's holy law fell upon Paul like a prosecuting witness, arresting him, judging him and passing sentence upon him for execution; when Paul was condemned under the law, about to die under its sentence; then “God revealed His Son in me—revealed him as crucified for me.” The Gospel of His dying and rising again for sinners drank up my curse; yea, and drank up my life and my loyalty, so that I live and serve for His glory and His Gospel. His love constrains me. “He loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. ). How can I be ashamed of Him or His Gospel?
My dear Reader, where do you stand in this matter? Are you proud of your good name, fair characters, your reason and understanding, among the men of the world? If we openly profess the true Gospel of Christ, and live and walk under the influence of it, we cannot do as the rest of the world does. We will be given nicknames by this old world, such as, mad man, fool, fanatic, etc. Pride cannot bear this, is ashamed of it, and will keep its “gospel” to itself. Consider the dishonor it is to the precious Christ to be ashamed of His glorious Gospel. It is one thing to be beset with shame and another to give way to it. Remember that to be ashamed of our Blessed Lord Christ and His Gospel assures that you shall be eternally shamed by the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 8:38) for, “if we deny Him,” thus manifesting the true state of our own hearts, “He also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2:12).
Does that Gospel bring to our souls the glad tidings of the pardon of our sins, peace with God, justification before Him, and eternal enjoyment of Him through salvation in Christ? Did He make Himself of no reputation for us? Did He endure the cross, despising the shame, as a cursed malefactor, for our redemption? These thoughts will not weigh heavily upon the mere professor of religion, but the true child of grace cries, “Without Thee, Blessed Lord, we can do nothing,” but “through Thy strength we can do all things.” O Lord, help us to ever glory in Thee, and of Thee. Our glorying is not in our organizations, our denominations, or our American culture. Our glorying is in the death and resurrection of our blessed Lord and in the Biblical significance of these great realities.
While Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel, and proclaimed it faithfully, he detested any perversion thereof, or the setting forth of “another gospel, another jesus, and another spirit” (Gal. 1:6-9 and 2 Cor. 11:4). Paul knew the true Gospel in the power of the Holy Ghost in his own heart and it was too precious to him to be indifferent to its adulteration. The pattern of Paul’s preaching was always, “When I came to you, I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him as having been crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). The true Gospel sets forth Christ in the sovereignty and power of God in the dispensation of His grace. False gospels, which are numerous in this God abasing and man exalting generation, deny this, and preach the merit of human effort (works) for salvation. They have their human devises or innovations, gadgets and gimmicks; imitation of the world, advertising with catch-words to get the “message across.” They go to all ends to bring in the numbers and play religion to the deception of poor souls. Their preachers preach free-will, easy believism, exalt man-made, so-called church programs, and either deny the Scripture or cast doubt upon God's Holy Book. Avowed atheists and communists are not one-tenth as dangerous as those preachers who instill doubt in the minds of their hearers. Congregations, who would not tolerate atheists and communists in their pulpits, receive these pastors graciously and pay these infidels in ministerial garb. These pastors and their followers, “twice dead, plucked up by the roots” (Jude 12), are simply deniers of historic Christian faith while wrapped in the garb of so-called orthodoxy.
The Gospel will not tolerate such craftiness, the handling the Word of God deceitfully (2 Cor. 4:2), nor enticing words of man's wisdom (1 Cor. 2:4). It stands as “manifestation of the truth” “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” Paul, truly a man of God, says about the true Gospel which he preached, “I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man, For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. ).
“Of the gospel of Christ.” In this epistle to the Romans the Gospel receives its fullest exposition. Martin Luther rightly called it “the clearest Gospel of all.” “If a man understands it,” wrote John Calvin, “he has a sure road open for him to the understanding of the whole Scripture.” In this great epistle the apostle, as led by the Holy Ghost, divides the revelation given into two parts — the Law and the Gospel — essentially distinct from each other; though so intimately connected, that an accurate knowledge of neither can be obtained without the other. We cannot indeed have too much of the Gospel; but we may have too little of the Law. And a defect in the sound preaching of the Law is as clear a cause of inefficient ministration, as a legal preaching of the Gospel. As this book of Romans clearly shows, the essence of preaching the Gospel is to start by preaching the Law. It is because the Law has not been preached in our day that we have so much superficial preaching and so many unsaved “converts.” True preaching of the pure Gospel starts with the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, the demands and spirituality of God’s Holy Law, the punishment meted out by that broken Law and the severe wrath of God on the sinfulness of unregenerate men and women. Only the person who is brought to see guilt in this way will flee to Christ for refuge.
Following are the words of the great Puritan Dr. Owen, not more remarkable for his powerful defense of Christian doctrine, than for his deep insight into every part of experimental godliness—“Let no man think to understand the Gospel, who knoweth nothing of the Law. God’s constitution and the nature of things themselves have given the Law the precedence with respect to sinners; ‘for by the law is the knowledge of sin.’ And Gospel faith is the soul’s acting according to the mind of God, for deliverance from that state and condition, which it is cast under by the law. And all those descriptions of faith, which abound in the writings of learned men, which do not at least include in them a virtual respect unto this state and condition, or the work of the law on the consciences of sinners, are all of them vain speculations. There is nothing in this whole doctrine which I will more firmly adhere unto, than the necessity of the conviction mentioned, previous unto true believing; without which not one line of it can be understood aright; and men do but beat the air in their contention about it.” Dr. Owen is simply pointing out the truth of this epistle in such verses as 3:19 “That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” — that is, become guilty in their own eyes, acknowledging that they are a guilty sinner, sensible of their guilt and admitting at the foot of the enthroned Christ that they deserved just damnation. Romans 3:20; 5:20; 7:7-12 are just a few more passages that quickly come to mind weighing heavily on this issue.
Due to the vast importance of Law and Grace preaching we offer the following very lengthy statement of Dr. William G.T. Shedd: “It is vain to offer the Gospel unless the law has been applied with clearness and cogency (as it is in the Romans epistle,
LVC). ... ‘Thou sayest’— says John Bunyan —‘thou dost in deed and in truth believe the Scriptures. I ask therefore, Wast thou ever killed stark dead by the law of works contained in the Scriptures? Killed by the law or letter, and made to see thy sins against it, and left in a helpless condition by the law? For the proper work of the law is to slay the soul, and to leave it dead in an helpless state. For, it doth neither give the soul any comfort itself, when it comes, nor doth it show the soul where comfort is to be had; and therefore it is called the ministration of condemnation, the ministration of death. For, though men may have a notion of the blessed Word of God, yet before they be converted, it may be truly said of them, Ye err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.’
“If it be thought that such preaching of the law can be dispensed with, by employing solely what is called in some quarters the preaching of the Gospel, I do not agree with the opinion. The benefits of Christ’s redemption are pearls which must not be cast before swine. The Gospel is not for the stupid, or for the doubter,—still less for the scoffer. Christ’s atonement is to be offered to conscious guilt, and in order to conscious guilt there must be the application of the Decalogue. John the Baptist must prepare the way for the merciful Redeemer, by legal and close preaching. And the merciful Redeemer Himself, in the opening of His ministry, and before He spake much concerning remission of sins, preached a sermon which in its searching and self-revelatory character is a more alarming address to the corrupt natural heart, than was the first edition of it delivered amidst the lightnings of Sinai. The Sermon on the Mount is called the Sermon of the Beatitudes, and many have the impression that it is a very lovely song to the sinful soul of man. They forget that the blessing upon obedience implies a curse upon disobedience, and that every mortal man has disobeyed the Sermon on the Mount. ‘God save me’—said a thoughtful person who knew what is in the Sermon on the Mount, and what is in the human heart —‘God save me from the Sermon on the Mount when I am judged in the last day.’ When Christ preached this discourse, He preached the law, principally. ‘Think not,’ He says, ‘that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.’ ...
“So little is said in it, comparatively, concerning what are called the doctrines of grace, that it has often been cited to prove that the creed of the Church has been expanded unduly, and made to contain more than the Founder of Christianity really intended it should. The absence, for example, of any direct and specific statement of the doctrine of Atonement, in this important section of Christ’s teaching, has been instanced by the Socinian opponent as proof that this doctrine is not so vital as the Church has always claimed it to be. But, Christ was purposely silent respecting grace and its methods, until He had spiritualized law, and made it penetrate the human consciousness like a sharp sword. Of what use would it have been to offer mercy, before the sense of its need had been elicited? And how was this to be elicited, but by the solemn and authoritative enunciation of law and justice? ... The great intention is to convince of sin ... When the Redeemer, in the opening of His ministry, had provided the apparatus of conviction, then He provided the apparatus of expiation. The Great High-Priest, like the Levitical priest who typified Him, did not sprinkle atoning blood indiscriminately. It was to bedew only him who felt and confessed guilt...
“But the fact is, that the Redeemer began with law, and was rigorous with sin from the very first. ... And all along through His ministry of three years and a half, He constantly employs the law in order to prepare his hearers for grace. He was as gentle and gracious to the penitent sinner, in the opening of His ministry, as He was at the close of it; and He was as unsparing and severe towards the hardened and self-righteous sinner, in His early Judean as He was in His later Galilean ministry.
“It is sometimes said that the surest way to produce conviction of sin is to preach the Cross. There is a sense in which this is true, and there is a sense in which it is false. If the Cross is set forth as the cursed tree on which the Lord of Glory hung and suffered, to satisfy the demands of Eternal Justice, then indeed there is fitness in the preaching to produce the sense of guilt. But this is to preach the law, in its fullest extent, and the most tremendous energy of its claims. Such discourse as this must necessarily analyze law, define it, enforce it, and apply it in the most cogent manner. For, only as the atonement of Christ is shown to completely meet and satisfy all of these legal demands which have been so thoroughly discussed and exhibited, is the real virtue and power of the Cross made manifest.
“But if the Cross is merely held up as a decorative ornament, like that on the breast of Belinda, ‘which Jews might kiss and infidels adore;’ if it be proclaimed as the beautiful symbol of the Divine indifference and indulgence, and there be a studious avoiding of all judicial aspects and relations; if the natural man is not searched by law and alarmed by justice, but is only soothed and narcotized by the idea of an Epicurean deity destitute of moral anger and inflicting no righteous retribution,—then, there will be no conviction of sin. Wherever the preaching of the law is positively objected to, and the preaching of the Gospel is proposed in its place, it will be found that the ‘gospel’ means that good-nature and that easy virtue which some mortals dare to attribute to the Holy and Immaculate Godhead! He who really, and in good faith, preaches the Cross, never opposes the preaching of the law ...
“It is, therefore, specially incumbent upon the Christian ministry, to employ a searching and psychological style of preaching, and to apply the test of ethics and virtue so powerfully to men who are trusting to ethics and virtue, as to bring them upon their knees ... These sermons run the hazard of being pronounced monotonous, because of the pertinacity with which the attempt is made to force self-reflection ... Men do not know themselves ... The subject of moral evil contemplated in the heart of the individual man,—not described to him from the outside, but wrought out of his own being into incandescent letters, by the fierce chemistry of anxious, perhaps agonizing reflection,— sin, the one awful fact in the history of man, if caused to pervade discourse will always impart to it a hue which, though it be monochromatic, arrests and holds the eye like the lurid color of an approaching storm-cloud. ... With the prayer that God the Spirit will design to employ them as the means of awakening some souls from the lethargy of sin.”
The Holy Ghost, in this Romans epistle, makes it quite clear that there is no Gospel except in the light of the immutable law of God in its spirituality, and there is no bringing a sinner to see himself in his sins before a Holy God except the law be preached in the cross of Christ.
In the entire New Testament the Gospel message is everywhere regarded as the Word of God; not man’s word concerning Him, but God’s own Word, testifying to a conviction that God Himself has spoken; the message of which God is the Source and Author. The Thessalonian converts received the Gospel message “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God” (1 Thes. ). Paul devotes the whole of the first chapter of Galatians to showing that the Gospel is not man’s, but that it is God’s.
The Bible definition of the Gospel is good news or glad tidings. It is considered as weak, foolishness, and an offense by the natural man, both non professors and false professors. But it is good news for a guilty sinner. Its provisions are for the needy, as it is said, “The poor (poor in spirit) have the gospel preached unto them” Matt. 11:5). For the spiritually hungry a feast of fat things is provided in this glorious Gospel (Isa. 25:6), “without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1). It is the freeness of the Gospel which makes it so very blessed. It is the proclamation of free-grace pardon and mercy to the vilest of poor sinners.
It is described in verse 1 of this first chapter as the Gospel of God because it is glad tidings of reconciliation with Him. In this verse (16) it is called the Gospel of Christ for Christ is its Subject, Author, and End. No Christ, no Gospel! A few of the many other descriptions are: “the Gospel of the grace of God” (Acts ); “the Gospel of your salvation” (Eph. ); “the glorious Gospel” (2 Cor. 4:4); and “the everlasting Gospel” (Rev. 14:6).
This wonderful Gospel is God’s revelation of His love in Christ Jesus to eternally loved and elect sinners (Jer. 31:3). It is the good news of salvation, grace and glory for the redeemed of the Lord (Rom. -25). It is the declaration of the glorious fact that Christ, the Surety of the covenant, lived, died, rose again, and ever lives to execute His Father’s will, plead His people’s cause, and bring them to the glory prepared by the Father, and possessed by our Lord in undisturbed security for them (Heb. 7:22 & Heb. 8:6-12). It is the glorious discovery that God, in all His ways and works, is for them, and never against them (Rom. -39). The Gospel is God’s power unto salvation to every one that believeth.
As the apostle said, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Christ’s Gospel is what He did, His finished work. In 1 Cor. 15:1-4 the apostle, as God’s spokesman, gives to us the Gospel defined as the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, why He died, and “how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” It is Christ, the Anointed of God, the Messiah, the God-Man, and the meaning and message of His work on the bloody cross. To be the Gospel of Christ, The Christ of the Gospel must be described and proclaimed; Who He is, What He did, Where He is, etc. He was and is the second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, who, having taken our nature into union with His Divine nature that He might be capable of suffering and dying on that tree to atone for our sins. And all the promises of the Gospel are in Christ— they are given in Him, and fulfilled in Him (2 Cor ). They are exactly adapted to the necessities of those to whom they are addressed (as the poor in spirit, they that mourn, the meek, they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, etc.) and these are clearly and unmistakably described, as in Matt. 5, etc.
Christ died. He was God’s sacrifice for the sins of His people (2 Cor. ) as “it pleased the Lord to bruise Him ... when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin” (Isa. 53:10). By His death, the penalty was paid, and His sinless life given up as an offering for sin (Eph. 1:7). Christ died for our sins. The death of the Testator made a way for the bestowment of the blessings bequeathed by Him, through the Holy Ghost, who is the Executor of God’s Testament. This blessed Gospel of Christ, by presenting our nature as sunk beneath the possibility of effecting our own recovery, and proclaiming salvation by CHRIST, as the propitiation for our sin (Rom. 3:25), and the Holy Ghost, as the Sanctifier of the ungodly; reveals that covenant of mercy, which can alone answer the necessities of man, in his greatest and best interest.
He died by the Substitution of Himself, as an innocent victim, as a Sacrifice, taking the Law-place of the guilty, elect sinner (
5:6, 8, 10). By Christ’s vicarious death, the elect sinner suffers the eternal death penalty in the Substitute; and through His blood, presented and accepted on behalf of the sinner, there is remission of sins and perfect reconciliation of the sinner into the favor of a Holy God (1 Pet. 1:18-19). True religion which ever testifies of the Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ from an experimental acquaintance with its efficacy is derided and despised in our day, but the central story of all the saints of God, the true Church, is that His precious Blood was the purchase price of their redemption. Rom.
The Scriptures are clear beyond dispute, Christ had a specific people given to Him by the Father before the foundation of the world (John 17:3; Eph. 1:4). These elect sinners whom God set His heart on from all eternity are called by Christ, sheep, those alone for whom He died as spoken by Himself "I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:16). Our Lord said that He had “other sheep,” lost sheep, not in the fold yet, but His “I must bring” would bring them into the fold of the saints. Then He said to others “Ye are not My sheep” (John ) clearly implying that for them He would not, did not, die. Our Lord’s death was as the Substitute for His people, His seed (Isa. 53:10-11), and His death in their place is acceptable unto God the Father and effectual unto them. He gave His life a Ransom, not for everybody, but for the many (Matt. ; Rom. , 19). As He “prayed not for the world” (John 17:9), so He died not for the world. As He prayed only for the elect in the fold and all those still to be brought to saving faith (John ), He died for the same. The Father justifieth the elect; Christ died, arose, and ascended for them (Rom. -34).
Christ died for our sins, not the sins of everybody in the world. The Lord Jesus came to earth to save His people (Matt. ) from their sins. The Bible calls His people, the sheep, friends, chosen, elect, and the Church, among other names, and He actually earned salvation for them. He did not come to merely offer salvation to all men and hope that some would accept His offer. Salvation is not an offer and our Lord Himself and His Gospel, is never offered to sinful, blind, spiritually dead, God-hating men and women. He came to seek and to save every utterly lost sinner and He accomplished His “work which Thou (the Father) gavest Me to do” (John 17:4). The Gospel is not “God loves you; Christ died for you.” Nowhere does any prophet, apostle, or our Lord Himself, say such indiscriminately to a general audience. Abel’s sacrifice, a firstling of his flock, availed for himself but not for his brother Cain. On the first Passover, each family’s firstborn was protected by their own, individual, sacrificial lamb. There was no lamb slain universally, offered to Israelites and Egyptians alike, if they would only accept it. Offerings were always offered to God just as Christ’s was (Heb. ; Rom. ).
Paul said the proclamation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, in order to be the Gospel, must be proclaimed “according to the Scriptures” and not according to traditions, wishes, or human reason. The Gospel is embedded in all the Scriptures, as it encompasses the whole of what Christ our Lord did in saving His people. The Gospel is in accord with and explained by the Scriptures, all sixty-six books of them. There is no other source for this wonderful truth, this knowledge of the glorious Gospel, than the Scriptures. The Bible—shout it in the ears of all religions, professors, and cults—has a monopoly on truth. The Scriptures, throughout both Old Testament and New Testament, tell us Who would die for our sins; why Christ died; when He died; how He died; how He would die for our sins; where He died; and for whom He died. Let us briefly revisit this last point. He died for His people (Matt. 1:21); the many that He justified as He bore their iniquities ( Isa. 53:11) ; the many (those in Christ) He made righteous (Rom. 5:19); even “as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39); by His Blood that He shed for many (Matt. 26:28); the prisoners of hope (Zech. 9:11); to take out a people for His name (Acts 15:14); as many as were ordained to eternal life (Acts 13:48); thy people ... found written in the Book (Dan 12:1); many sons, they who are sanctified, brethren, the children which God hath given Me (Heb. 2: 10-14); those chosen in Him (Eph. 1:3-7); the Church (Eph. 5:25); His sheep, the one fold (John 10:14); His people, His sheep (Psa. 100:3); them which Thou hast given Me (John 17:9); all the flock, the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28); the sheep who are the us all (Isa. 53:6). Each of these names of those for whom Christ died implies the exclusion of those not included in such a name or title. “His people” excludes all who are not His people. “His sheep” excludes all who are not His sheep, such as the wolves. “His body” excludes all who are not His body, and so forth.
Our Lord was then buried, thus proving His death. He was buried on Wednesday at sundown, and he stayed in the grave for three full nights and three full days, rising again just after the Saturday Sabbath sundown on the first day of the week. As Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights (Jonah ), so was our Lord Christ in the tomb for the same (Matt. ). And “He rose again the third day.” Had Christ not risen, we would yet be in our sins. His resurrection was proof positive that He was who He claimed to be and His work was accepted by His Father as “He was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:24-25). His resurrection was unquestionable as He showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs for forty days before His ascending back to the Father (Acts 1:3). He was seen of all the apostles and over 500 brethren at once in proof that He who died in the stead of His people is alive forevermore. Any Gospel that does not speak of a risen, living, ascended, reigning Lord, is not the Gospel of God. The apostles preached; the true men of God of today, and every day, preach, that Christ is risen, exalted and reigning. Then Paul restates that the truth of who Christ is and His work on that bloody Cross, in the tomb, risen, ascended, and reigning on His throne, is according to the Scriptures (Luke 24:25; Luke 24:44; 1 Pet. 1:10).
That is the Gospel, and that is the Gospel that is not preached on the television or radio except by one rare minister here or there. That is the Gospel that is heard in very few of the so-called churches in our day. It is not related at all to the messages that are heralded in the vast majority of the organized religious institutions of today. The true Gospel is a manifestation of the Person of God Almighty as revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ, His authority and power. It consists of the complete revelation of God’s Person, and the revelation of the whole Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King, and of His perfect work in relation to the treatment of sin and the complete accomplishment of salvation in Him which is of the Lord.
This Gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ is good news to guilty, lost, helpless sinners. It is not a begging appeal for sinners to save themselves by some act of a supposed free-will, but it is the proclamation of the Person of salvation in all His offices and it tells helpless sinners to look away from themselves unto the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 24:45-47 & John 3:14-15).
The Gospel is not a message independent of God’s Holy Law, nor an announcement that God has lowered His standards and relaxed His justice. This Gospel shows us God’s hatred of sin and the sword of His justice in smiting His own Beloved Son in order that atonement (satisfaction) might be made for the transgressions of His people. Quoting Samuel Hopkins, “Our idea and apprehension of the Gospel will be erroneous and wrong just as far as we have wrong notions of God’s Law.”
The Person and work of Christ from the womb to the throne, yea, from eternity to eternity, is the theme and substance of the Gospel. The Lord of the Universe came into this world through the miracle of the Virgin Birth (Matt. -23). As a baby in a manager, He was God’s salvation (Luke -32). He made Himself responsible for all that Law and justice of a Holy God demanded of the sinner, and He took the debt upon Himself and paid it by doing and by suffering in the stead of His people as their Surety. Instead of destroying the Law, as the dispensationalists and antinomians falsely claim, He magnified the Law. He made it honorable by His perfect obedience (God demands perfection) and His suffering of its curse in the stead of sinners. The Gospel shouts forth the all-sufficiency of the Saviour and comes to the heart of the awakened sinner with the wonderful news that all that is necessary for reconciliation with an offended God has been abundantly paid for and purchased by our Lord Jesus Christ, our Prince of Peace. “For therein is the righteousness of god revealed from faith to faith” (Rom. ).
One of the Puritans said, “The Gospel then, you see, tells men that they are ungodly; it tells them that God is just, infinitely and undevastatingly just; it brings these two truths plainly before the mind, and then calls upon it to admire and adore the wisdom and goodness which could reunite them, and make them harmonize together; it tells, in short, of Jesus Christ, of Him who came to preach good tidings unto the meek, who was sent to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison door to them that are bound.”
For it is the power of God. God acts efficaciously through the Gospel to deliver the captive sinner from sin and its penalty. But, the written Word has no power whatever in itself, but it is all powerful in the hands of the Incarnate Word, the Living Christ. When the Gospel is described as producing certain powerful effects, it is always as wielded by the Lord of Hosts, the King of kings, the Living Word of the Living God, who rides forth, girt with His sword upon His thigh, conquering and to conquer (Rev. 1:16). The written Word of God is only a two-edged sword (Heb. ), when it comes out of the mouth of the Incarnate, Living Word into the hearts of God's people. We say humbly and respectfully, that “preaching” was not proclaimed to be the power of God, as important as preaching is in God’s economy of grace; neither “the Scriptures,” as precious and important as they are. Paul said that he preached Christ having been crucified “the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. ). The Lord Jesus Christ, Him alone, the Living Word, is the power of God. So all the effects ascribed to the written Word, are to be ascribed to it wholly and solely as an efficacious instrument in the hands, and out of the mouth of Him, who is Lord and King in
. On the text from 1 Thes. 1:5 we quote the following words of Elder Gregg M. Thompson: “The text does not say that the power comes in the Gospel, or that the Holy Ghost comes in the Gospel, but that the Gospel comes in them. We seldom hear a new born soul relate his experience but that he will refer to some time when he heard the Gospel as he never heard it before, and he was made to tremble and weep, while those who sat right by him, and were hearing the same words, felt no such emotions. Why this difference in the two hearers? And why does this trembling soul now hear as he never heard before, and feel as he never felt before under the preaching of the Gospel? It is because there is a Spirit and power in him that was never there before, that has opened the ears to hear and prepared the heart to understand the Word preached. Having this power in him the Gospel comes as it never did before, and awakens in him reflections and feelings he never had before under its sound ... Let the power to hear and understand be given, and then the effects of the message will be visible in those who hear. It is therefore the quickened sinner who trembles at the Word of the Lord, and by it is instructed in the way of salvation.” Zion
In summary, we must preach the Gospel of Christ in His atoning death, burial, resurrection, ascension and enthronement. We must proclaim a risen, exalted and reigning Christ, proclaiming where He is now, identified as the pre-existent, virgin born, sinlessly living, vicariously dying, Son of the Living God. The Gospel story rises or falls with the truth or falsity of the resurrection and exaltation of our conquering Lord Christ. And that glorious Gospel demands that every man bow to Him that sits on the throne with the eternal destiny of every person that lives, or ever shall live, in His hand (John 5:21 & 17:2). “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name … that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). Also, we must correctly identify as false the message that can be understood apart from the work of the Holy Ghost; the message that man can accept with no loss to his pride and self esteem. We must preach not ourselves, our theories, ideas, and man-made, flesh exalting niceties, but we must preach Jesus Christ the Lord. And we must preach the Gospel, “whether listeners will hear or will forebear,” and leave the result to God who alone “gives the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6). The precious must be taken from the vile; a line must be drawn between the possessor and the professor; and a free-grace salvation in the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus must be the sum and substance of our preaching.
The power of God unto salvation. The Gospel of Christ is altogether founded on the fallen and lost state of human nature, and a thorough conviction of the sinners needs and unworthiness, together with suitable apprehensions of the Divine mercy in the appointment of God's salvation as hath been accomplished, and that salvation is for utterly lost sinners only. Our Lord Christ justly reasons, “They that are whole need not a physician; it is only they that are sick” (Luke 5:31). As the man in perfect health would vehemently reject the proposal of any person's giving medicine to him; so equally would it be to recommend the expediency of a Redeemer to a person truly righteous. A sense of sin must precede the apprehension of salvation; and the soul which is conscious of being lost, can only know the want or value of a Saviour. “What must I do to be saved” (Acts ) is the cry of a soul alarmed by mercy.
There is such a thing as an alarm that does not lead to salvation. Conviction is not always conversion. Natural conviction of sin is produced by a conscience alarmed at the sight of the consequences of sin, and it leads either to despair, as in the case of Judas, or to a resting in a false peace—a taking shelter under the form without the experience of the power of godliness. True spiritual conviction of sin, on the other hand, leads the soul to the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is produced by the Holy Ghost enlightening the understanding to see and softening the heart to feel the exceeding sinfulness and misery of sin. Natural conviction leaves the soul resting in something short of Christ; Spiritual conviction brings the soul to the feet of the dear Saviour, with a cry for mercy, and a misery in the heart which nothing short of mercy manifested, salvation in Christ revealed, pardon applied, can remove. This is true conversion; God's salvation.
What is it that the quickened soul does, through Divine power? He repents of sin, abhors himself on account of it, flies from it, seeks salvation, looks to Christ, and runs and bows to Him for refuge. Where these things are found, the inwrought faith of God’s elect is in the heart, as they are its blessed fruits, the evidences of Divine life. Only a living soul can do these things, and all who are saved must have this experience, which is the work of God the Holy Spirit. None receive Christ until He (Christ) opens the sinner’s heart at His own volition, as with Lydia (Acts 16:14). In the conversion of a sinner, it is not the power of his own will, nor the Gospel preached, but by the inward voice of the Lord Christ, which opens the will and makes the Gospel effectual.
Matthew 1:21 reads “And she shall bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.” He who shall save His people is Christ “who is over all, God blessed for ever.” (Rom. 9:6); yet, Emmanuel, GOD WITH US—God humbling Himself to the nature, wants, and necessities of His people—Deity clothed with humanity. He is GOD, mighty to save—Man, mean to sympathize. He shall save; not, do something by which sinners may avail themselves of certain offers, conditions, or contingencies whereby they may be saved. It is not, He shall do all that is necessary for sinners to be saved if they will, nor, that Christ has done His part, and now we must do ours if we are to be saved. Christ did not come to offer salvation; to try to save if sinners would co-operate. Oh no! “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15), and when He left this world He could say “It is finished” (John 19:30). Salvation is entirely of the Lord and it is a glorious certainty in the purpose of the Father—an accomplished fact in the work of the Son—a blessed reality by the operation of the Holy Ghost in the experience of living souls.
We have already identified who His people are so we turn to the phrase “from their sins.” Salvation is God’s deliverance “from the curse of the law” (Gal. 3:13); ”from this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4); from all accusers (Psa. 109:31); from all enemies (Luke 1:71); from all troubles (Psa. 34:6); from wrath (Rom. 5:9); from all iniquity (Psa. 130:8). When an awakened and convicted sinner approaches a Holy God, he is over whelmed by his own transgressions, sins, and iniquities which excluded him from the enjoyment of a sin- hating God who loves utterly lost sinners. Read the sinner’s petitions in Psalms 25:11 and 51:9. The word “sins” in the singular reveals our nature: in the plural it testifies to our practice. We were conceived in sin—shapen in iniquity (Psa. 51:5)—foolishness is bound in our hearts (Prov. 22:15)—the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9)—our lives one ever-accumulating pile of sins and enormities against God. Mountains of guilt—rivers of iniquity—oceans of corruption (Isa. 1:5-6)—are all that we can claim as proceeding from ourselves. But blessed be to Jehovah’s Holy Spirit! He brings the soul to know and feel its vileness. He makes the heart to know and feel the exceeding preciousness of a Saviour’s love, blood, righteousness, and salvation. The Lord Jesus, mighty to save, appears! He triumphs! Sin is put away—death is destroyed—Hell is disappointed of its prey—the Law is magnified—justice is satisfied—God is glorified—Christ is exalted—and the whole body of the elect of God is saved in Christ with an everlasting salvation. In His glorious Person—finished salvation—all prevailing intercession , the Father is well-pleased, and the accused is “justified from all things from which he could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39).
The great puritan John Flavel said, “The powerful voice of Christ is the key that opens the door of the soul to receive Him.” Yes, this is the experience of all of those who have truly felt of the free grace of God in their souls. We read of Lydia attending to the things preached by the apostle Paul when the Holy Ghost moved powerfully upon her “whose heart the Lord opened.” (Acts 16:14). In the salvation of a sinner “the eyes of the understanding are enlightened” (Eph. 1:18) and it is the inward work of God that opens the understanding (Luke 24:45). The Gospel in itself is not the power in salvation for it comes “in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance” (1 Thes. 1:5) to “whom the arm of the Lord is revealed” (Isa. 53:1). The work of saving mercy in the sinner brings that sinner to the place of knowing himself, seeing himself, as God knows and see him. “Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loath yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations” (Ezek. 36:31). To the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom the natural man and the false professors see no beauty (Isa. 53:2-3), the Holy Ghost works true willingness and intense desire (Psa. 110:3) in the convinced sinner to know and be savingly joined to for all eternity. “That I may know Him” (Phil. ) becomes the constant cry of the saved, regenerated sinner to whom Christ becomes most Precious (1 Pet. 2:7). The Holy Ghost led the apostle Paul to sum up the way God saved him (as well as all sinners saved) in 2 Cor. 4:6 where we read, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Dear reader, anything apart from that, anything other than that, is not salvation.
The Book of Romans deals throughout with the salvation unto which it leads consisting generally in (1) What it does for us. (2) What it does in us. (3) What it leads us unto. We find in this letter that Paul uses salvation in the sense of justification. Man is saved when he is justified; but in another part of the letter he is speaking about a salvation that is to be revealed at the last day, and we find the apostle Peter speaking of this also. Then the apostle speaks of salvation in its symbols—in its figures. In chapter 6 we have salvation pictorially present in baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Also, there is the redemption of the soul, the buying back of the soul; next, the redemption of the earth on which man lives. So salvation is a big word and a big thing. It is the final, complete, and everlasting deliverance of the elect sinner's entire soul and body from the guilt, defilement, and dominion of sin, and the bondage of Satan, and the deliverance of man’s habitat—this old world—from the curse upon it.
And our Epistle tells us that this salvation is unto something as well as from something. It is a deliverance unto an everlasting inheritance prepared in heaven for our Lord's redeemed. But salvation is not complete when the soul is justified for the body is to be saved, and, the body is not saved until it is raised from the dead and glorified. And only when the redeemed actually reach that inheritance in soul and body can we realized salvation as completed.
Also, this Epistle presents salvation, in its legal aspects, expressed by three words: (1) Justification, which is the declaration of a competent court that one tried before it is acquitted. (2) Redemption, the buying back of what had been sold. (3) Adoption. We are not naturally children of God, and we only get into His family by adoption. Adoption is that legal process by which one, not naturally a member of the family, becomes legally so. So salvation, as far as legal aspects go, is expressed by these three words, and the Holy Ghost leads Paul into the discussion of each of them in this letter. When a sinner is justified before God, that delivers him from the wrath to come. Justification does that—it delivers from the guilt of sin.
The Epistle deals with salvation as done in us by the use of the terms regeneration and sanctification. Regeneration is the giving a holy disposition to the mind and heart of the sinner. The carnal mind is enmity against God, not subject to His Law, neither could be made subject to Him or His Law (Rom 8:7). The natural man hates God, hates truth, hates light (John -20). It is not sufficient for a man to be merely redeemed from the curse of the Law, or the wrath of the Law, and be acquitted. It is necessary that he be brought into complete harmony with God in heart and mind. That occurs in the sinner; God begins a good work in us , and continues it to the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil. 1:6). That good work in us is expressed by regeneration and sanctification. Regeneration gives us a holy disposition, but the remnants of the corrupt nature are still in us. But God continues His work in us of conforming us to the image of His dear Son, as we go on from strength to strength, from glory to glory, from faith to faith, to glorification.
We end our thoughts on this most important word “salvation” with a few notes by the late Evangelist Rolfe Barnard: “The Christ of the Bible is Lord of all and a salvation that does not so enthrone Him is not ‘God’s so great salvation’ ... Living a Christian life is not simply difficult, it is impossible. The New Testament emphasis is, ‘Christ living in you.’ William Law said, ‘A Christ not in you is a Christ not yours.’ One must know the Living Lord. Anything short of this fails to be salvation. It is surely true that knowing a Christ who relieves men of their sense of guilt apart from knowing the Living Lord is a delusion. It is further true that whatever errors we may be guilty of, we must not err here. It is time to demand not only that men come to Christ with an open, empty hand to receive His mercies, but also they must come on bended knee and surrendered lives.”
To every one that believeth. On this phrase we quote the comments of Robert Haldane from his great commentary on Romans: “This power of God unto salvation is applied through faith, without which God will neither justify nor save any man, because it is the appointed means of His people’s union with Jesus Christ. Faith accepts the promise of God. Faith embraces the satisfaction and merit of Jesus Christ, which are the foundation of salvation; and neither that satisfaction nor that merit would be imputed, were it not rendered ours by faith. Finally, by faith we give ourselves to Jesus Christ, in order that He may possess and conduct us for ever. When God justifies, He gives grace; but it is always in maintaining the rights of His majesty, in making us submit to His law and to the direction of His holiness, that Jesus Christ may reign in our hearts.” The phrase “every one that believeth” is descriptive of the persons to whom the Gospel, attended with the power and grace of God, is eventually efficacious, for He worketh not effectually in all, but only where the Spirit, the inward Teacher, reveals Christ in the heart. This must apply to infants and derelicts as well, for faith is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8); the fruit of the Holy Ghost (Gal. ); and, the blessed Holy Spirit, with all His graces and fruit, dwells in every regenerated soul (
To the Jew first, and also to the Greek. In the Old Testament the chosen people were mostly taken from the Jewish nation which was highly distinguished from all the rest of the world by their many great privileges. They were the royal family of the human race; the ancient people of God, while all other nations were strangers from the covenants of promise. Through them, came the God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel was preached to them first, but they rejected the Christ of God and His Gospel. Our Lord has taken from the Jewish nation all these privileges (Matt. 22:43) and given them to a spiritual, elect nation (God's called out Church made up of elect Gentiles and elect Jews 1 Peter 2:9; Gal 3:26-29. Now God the Trinity is working in this world “to take out of them a people for His name,” (Acts ) and the people of God are taken “out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” of the world.
To the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Under the name of Greek, the Jews comprehended all the rest of the world besides their own nation.
Verse 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. From chapter 1, verse 18, of this Romans Epistle, the universal need for God’s righteousness is demonstrated. Secondly, from to 5:1, the manifestation of God’s righteousness is set forth. Thirdly, the imputation of God’s righteousness: 5:1 to . This phrase “the righteousness of God” is one of the most important expressions in the Scriptures. It stands connected with the first five chapters of the letter and signifies that fulfillment of the law which God in Christ has provided, by the imputation by which sinners are saved.
The “righteousness of God” is that perfect conformity to the Divine Law in heart and life which the holiness of God requires, which God in pure free grace has provided, which the Incarnate Son of God has wrought out for His own, and which the justice of God imputes to every sinner that believes. God cannot relinquish His rights, nor recede from His just claims. His holy Law must be satisfied. Divine love gave the Law; Divine wisdom drew it up; Divine justice requires the perfect performance of it. And, blessed be God, in sovereign grace He provided the satisfaction unto its righteous claims. Unfallen man failed to keep it; fallen man cannot keep it; so the God-Man—praise His holy name—came down to earth to keep it in the stead of and in the behalf of His people. He was under no personal obligation to the Law, but He humbled Himself, voluntarily humbled Himself, and placed Himself under it (Phi. 2:8; Gal. 4:4-5), that He might work out for His people a perfect and vicarious righteousness. Righteousness is by Christ already perfectly wrought out, to the honoring and magnifying God's holy Law; it is fully brought into the court of heaven, to the satisfying God’s justice; it is clearly revealed in the Gospel, for the hope and encouragement of poor sinners. This righteous of Christ (Phil. 3:9) is that righteousness with which God is well pleased, and for the sake of which He can be just while He justifies the ungodly sinner (Rom. 3:26; 4:5). It is the righteousness which the Son of God wrought out in our nature, to clothe and adorn, and make us poor naked sinners righteous and comely in God's sight.
This righteous is revealed in the Gospel. Blessed Gospel! It brings glad tidings of an infinitely perfect and everlastingly glorious righteousness! O my dear reader, where are you looking for righteousness? Do you look to yourself, your own supposed goodness, your works, your church, and your professions, to find righteousness? As well expect to find a saint in Hell, or a devil in Heaven, as to find righteousness in your unclean, filthy self (Isa. 64:6), with your deceitful, desperately wicked heart (Jer. 17:9). O poor sinner, search the Scriptures, there you will find it revealed; the Gospel is God's testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ; He is the only righteous Man that has ever been upon earth since sin entered into the world; His name is “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, ” (Jer. 23:6).
That righteousness by which we are justified is a free gift, made plain by the followings words, “the gift of righteousness,” which the apostle Paul represents believers, not as performing for it, but as “receiving” it (Rom. 5:17). The Gospel of sovereign grace, proclaiming the sufficiency, suitableness, and freeness of it, is thus denominated “the word of righteousness” (Heb. )—“the ministration of righteousness” (2 Cor. 3:9). The Lord our righteousness is said to be “made unto us righteousness (1 Cor. ) and it is stated of believers, that they are “made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. ). O glorious Saviour! The saints of God are declared, by the infallible Holy Ghost, to be “justified in Him” (Isa. 45:25)—“accepted in Him” (Eph. 1:6)—“complete in Him” (Col. 2:10)—and “saved in Him.” (Isa. 45:17). Such is the Divinely appointed method of justification; and such the provision which grace has made, for the final acceptance of guilty, ungodly, and wretched sinners.
The grand design of the Gospel is to “reveal this righteousness of God,” and to display the riches of God's grace which provided and freely bestows the wonderful gift. The Gospel informs us, in regard to justification, what is required of the transgressor, both as to doing and suffering, was performed by our precious Substitute. This perfect obedience, therefore, being revealed in the Word of God for the justification of sinners, is the business of true faith, not to enter as a condition, assert its own importance, or share the glory with our Saviour’s righteousness, but to receive it as absolutely sufficient to justify the most ungodly sinner, and as entirely free. True evangelical faith is the receiving of Christ and His righteousness (Isa. 45:22; John ; Col. 2:16; Rom. & ). True salvation brings a sinner to utter dependence on the Lord Christ only. Total dependence upon Him, is all-sufficient to save the most guilty sinner; as every way suitable to supply the wants of the most needy, and as absolutely free for the vilest of sinners. The Object of true faith is our Blessed Redeemer and His finished work (2 Pet. 1:1), and the report of the Gospel its warrant and ground, to believe, is to trust entirely and without reserve, on the faithful Word which God has spoken, and on the perfect work which Christ hath wrought. Such is the faith of God’s elect: and the comfortable evidences of its truth and reality, are the love of God, and holy obedience; peace of conscience, and hope of glory. These are its proper effects and genuine fruits. “God justifieth, not by imputing faith itself, the acts of believing, but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ” (Westminster Catechism).
In the Gospel is revealed the death of Christ, according to the Scriptures, in its Biblical significance, an atonement for sin, and the Gospel is the resurrection of Christ, in its Bible meaning, and it means many things but particularly this—we have both a Living Lord and Him who is the Lord of Life. He is the Lord of Life not only in that those who are in the grave hear His voice and come forth (John 5:28), but He is also the Lord of Life in that regeneration by the Spirit is in His sovereign will—“The Son quickeneth whom He will” (John 5:21 and Eph. 2:1). It is in the Biblical significance of Him, who He is; what He did as the sinner’s Substitute; that is revealed in the Gospel as that perfect righteousness accepted by God and imputed to the sinner in justification.
From faith to faith. It is revealed from the doctrine of faith in the Word, to the grace of faith in the heart. It is in every page of the sacred Word, from the patriarchs, prophets, the Old Testament saints, disciples, apostles, New Testament believers, and Gentile sinners in every age. This glorious, Divine righteousness is “unto all and upon all that believe.” (Rom. ). To all believers equally alike, whether faith be weak or strong. “The righteous of God is revealed from faith to faith” for as faith looks at this righteousness as purchased by Christ, so appointed by God, and bestowed by Him, and imputed by Him (2 Cor. 5:21). Faith must never be considered as the ground of our justification. The “righteousness of God [i.e., the satisfaction which Christ rendered to the law] is revealed from faith to faith,” and therefore cannot be faith itself. Romans declares that man believes with the heart unto righteous, showing that righteousness and believing are two distinct things. No, faith is not our righteousness; Christ is (Jer.23:6). “We acknowledge no righteousness but what the obedience and satisfaction of Christ yields us: His blood, not our faith; His satisfaction, not our believing it, is the matter of our justification before God” (John Flavel.
As it is written, The just shall live by faith. Christ came to this world to preach the Gospel, it is true, but primarily He came to this world to be the Gospel. The Gospel is Jesus Christ in the Biblical significance of His death and resurrection. The death of Christ, basically, as seen in its Bible meaning, is an atonement, the sacrifice for sin, that God might be both just and the Justifier of him that believeth in the Lord Jesus. And basically the resurrection of Christ means that we not only have a Living Lord, but also that He is the Lord of Life, the Sovereign Giver of eternal life in regeneration, and, also in the resurrection of the dead. And Paul looks to Habakkuk 2:4 as teaching that the Gospel of free justification, that is justification without our obedience unto the Law and thus earning that justification, is clearly taught there. And this justification is by faith because it brings us into vital union with Him in whom justification is found.
This living by faith is quite different from living by working; for the Law is never satisfied by our doings, because we can never fulfill it. But through God-given faith we live from day to day upon the Lord Jesus, our Law-fulfilling Redeemer. Hence we have peace of conscience, love of heart, joy of spirit, and holiness of life. O what a sweet life is this! None know the glory of it but the faithful.
Before looking at what true God-given faith is, we must look at several kinds of faith that are not saving, that do not secure to us God’s righteousness. It is a solemn and searching truth that there are true believers and false believers: Believers who can never perish, and believers who can never be saved—spiritual believers and natural believers—heavenly and hellish—some “who believe to the saving of the soul,” and others “who draw back to perdition” (Heb. ). The Scripture says —(1) There are those who cannot believe to the saving of the soul” (John ; ). (2) There are temporary believers, such as the stony-ground hearers, who for a time professed their faith with joy, but passed away without any thorough change of heart (Luke 8:13). (3) There are those believers, multitudes we fear, distrusted by Christ for He does not and “did not commit Himself unto them” (John 2: 22-23). (4) Devils have an awful and fixed persuasion of the truths of religion, so that they “believe and tremble” (James 2:19). (5) Many have a historical faith, by which they are persuaded of the truths of God's Word, that they have not an intellectual doubt of them. There are others that could be pointed out, such as those who make miracles their gospel, baptism, healing, etc. These are all “weighed in the balances and found wanting” and shall hear terrible condemning words of damnation in the final judgment.
Men have many faiths and many ways of believing; but God owns but one—by the preciousness of His testimony concerning Christ and the power of the Holy Ghost. But even that true faith is not itself our righteous, or that for the sake of which we are justified. For though believers are said to be justified by faith, yet not for faith. They are saved through faith and without this true faith he is not saved for a moment. Multitudes make profession under the mere external preaching of the Word but our natural blindness and aversion of spiritual things, and our stubborn perversity makes true faith impossible in such cases. Without the illumination of the Holy Ghost, the Word avails nothing. A man may be a keen theologian, thoroughly versed in Christology, and deliver learned discourses on Christ and the Gospel, but if he is a mere natural man, his faith is not saving faith. He may know all about Christ with his natural mind, but, in reality, he does not see Christ, nor hear His voice, for Christ is spiritually discerned. He feels not his need of the Saviour, although he knows about His atonement, he knows not his sin, or sin nature, and, he flees not, by way of Calvary, to the foot of our Living Lord who sits on the throne as the Sovereign Giver of life eternal. He may deliver sermons on the Bread of life, but he knows nothing of hunger for it or spiritually eating it. (John 6:51).
Let us now look at, somewhat extensively, that believing which is true faith, spiritual, heavenly and Divine. (1) The true believer exists according to God’s ordination—“as many as ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). (2) True believing is by God’s grace—“he helped them much which had believed through grace” (Acts 18:27). (3) True believing is by God’s commandment —“And this is His commandment, that we should believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 3:23). (4) True believing is God’s work—“This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him Whom He hath sent” (John 6:29). (5) True believing is by God’s Christ—“Who by Him do believe in God” (1 Pet. 1:20). (6) True believing is by God’s Word—“But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name” (John 20:31). (7) True believing is by God’s preaching—“It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). (8) True believing is by God’s power—“And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” (Eph. 1:19). (9) True believing is God’s gift—“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29).
These and many more Scriptures prove, without question, that believing unto righteousness and eternal glory is not by the will, act, or attainment of man, and it, in no way, springs from his old Adam nature. It is by God's free grace and it lives and thrives completely independent of the natural will, ability, or inclination of man. It is wholly of God, by God, to God, and in God. Everything worth having for time and eternity is in Christ by His faith (1 Tim. 1:14). Believers have the righteousness of God “through the faith of Christ” (Phil. 3:9). Justified—“justified by the faith of Christ” (Gal. 2:16). We possess eternal life “by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20). This faith works by love (Gal. 5:6). It is wrought in the heart (Rom. 10:10) and purifies the heart (Acts 15:9). It is not the desperately wicked, incurably wicked, heart (Jer. 17:9) that believes, but the new heart given by God in regenerating the sinner (Ezek. 11:19). And, this faith is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) as we are born of the Spirit and indwelt by Him and all His graces.
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). If the Gospel discerns spiritual things, gives spiritual instruction, we must have spiritual life (for the natural man is dead in trespasses and sins) to receive the instruction. Life comes before faith. This is the clear teaching of the whole Scripture and the experience of the saints of God. In the Gospel of John, chapter one, verses 12 and 13, the Holy Ghost tells us that as many as received Him, believed on His name (savingly believed); because they had been born of God. God gave us life and we believed. We were born of God, heard the voice of the Son of God and lived, and believed (John 5:25).True faith requires spiritual life, and with it, a spiritual revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. “And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). "Believing” on Christ is the result of “seeing” Him. He must first be revealed by the Spirit, before He is received by us sinners.
There is no saving faith in Christ or the truths of Him until there is “the arm of the Lord revealed” (Isa. 53:1). Our Lord Himself was thankful to the Father that saving truth was withheld from the wise and prudent, but it was revealed by Him unto babes (Matt:11:25-27). Christ said that Peter knew Him, and made a true confession of Him, because he had received this saving revelation from the Father (Matt. 16:16). The apostle Paul said that the difference maker in his life was not his decision, doing, or profession, but “the revelation of Christ in him” (Gal. 1:15-16), just as it is in every sinner ever saved (2 Cor. 4:6). Redeeming faith is essentially the spiritual revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ unto the souls of sinners. It is a revelation of free and sovereign grace to the hearts of those whom God is pleased to bring to salvation. The natural man can see Christ and truths about Him, but they cannot see His spiritual glory. It is only as regenerated from above that sinners can see Christ in His spiritual glory, His beauty. Has He been revealed in our souls; have our eyes been opened to see the glory of His death and His resurrection, that in His atonement and in His reign we have His salvation? Have we been enabled to see His beauty and preciousness which allured us to renounce ourselves and flee to Him?
In the system of salvation through Jesus Christ, every hope of salvation or immortal joys is excluded but what springs from grace, and is received by faith. It is faith that receives every covenant blessing that flows from a gracious Lord. The faith of God’s elect has the Lord Christ as its Author; (Heb. 12:12); and is an evidence that the Spirit of Him that raised up Christ from the dead dwells in us. It receives Christ as its object, His Word for its warrant, His power for its support. Its aim is His glory and love is its inseparable companion. Faith is a fruit of the Spirit, an evidence of our union with Christ and of our justified state (Rom. 5:1). It is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). It is child-like trust in the Word of the living God brought home to the heart by the power of the Holy Ghost. It is only mine in my living oneness with my living Head. Apart from Him no man has it. It has eyes never satisfied without Christ. It has ears on the alert for the sound of His voice. It delights at the very sound of His saving Name. It opens its mouth wide for Him to fill it. It feels after Him and for Him. The possession of saving faith is indispensable to salvation. The source of it is the Holy Trinity. It is the gift of the Father, His Son Jesus Christ is its object, and it is inwrought in the soul by the Holy Ghost.
Some of the work of the Holy Ghost in bringing a sinner to faith in Christ, taken mostly from the Lord’s dealings with seekers and those who approached Him as recorded in the gospels and the experience of the saints, must now receive our attention. In the working of true faith in the soul of an elect sinner there are various degrees thereof experienced.
First is when the sinner is brought to understand his lost and undone condition by nature, and perceives that God's Word is true, and that it rightly describes his vileness and depravity in his fall in Adam. The sinner in deep distress recognizes his evil heart and how vain is all self-help and human aid for deliverance. His case is a desperate and apparently hopeless one. He is brought to see and feel his total inability and helplessness.
Secondly, the sinner is brought to value the Lord Jesus, who in mercy and compassion, saved others similarly depraved and vile. He is brought to see his tremendous need of a Savior, the preciousness of Christ, and is made to desire Him above everything else in this world. Christ's Person and Work are revealed, and an intense interest in His love and blood becomes the one thing valued.
Thirdly, the sinner knows that Christ could help him, and he pleads for His mercy, trusting that He would. The poor sinner bows to the Lord Christ under a felt sense of his need of His grace and power. Saving faith always brings the sinner humbly to the Savior's feet crying, “God, be merciful to me the sinner.” True faith bows to the will of the Sovereign Lord, pleading it's hopeless case, leaving it in His hands, and relying on His mercy, without dictating to Him in the least what He should do. The awakened, sensible sinner admits that he is unworthy, that he deserves Hell, but He cleaves to the Lord Jesus, believing the worst of self, hoping alone in Him. True faith becomes the hand of the soul clinging to Christ, and clinging to the Rock of Ages for His salvation. Only empty hands can and do cling. All other support and refuge is discarded. It is “My Lord only” for “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
Fourthly, true faith ever seeks to claim Him as my all, my Prophet, Priest and King; to know Him that “He is mine and I am His.” The cry throughout the life of a true believer is “That I may know him” (Phil. ). Of His fullness faith receives, the blessings treasured in Him are laid hold of.
Fifthly, the soul ever wants the assurance of the willingness of the Lord Jesus Christ to help and save as well as of His power to do so. True faith desires that Christ make over all He is or has to the soul—give to the poor sinner Himself and all His graces, wisdom, love, and power. This is just what faith desires, because the believer cannot do without Christ.
Some of the blessings and privileges attending this Divinely-wrought faith are: (1) Everlasting life—“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John ). Believing is a blessed evidence of the possession of life in Christ, and of Christ our life. (2) Spiritual birth—“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1). They do not believe in order to be born again. That is an absurdity. They are born again to believe (see John -13). (3) Remission of sins—“Whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.” (Acts ). (4) Justification—“all that believe are justified” (Acts -39). (5) No condemnation—“He that believeth on Him in not condemned” (John ; John ; Rom. 8:1). (6) Completeness—“Christ is the end of the law for righteousness” (Rom 10:4). Christ, by His obedience unto death, has completely satisfied the demands of God's holy Law for every true believer. (7) Victory—“overcometh the world” (1 John 5:7). The faith of Christ wrought in the soul of every living child of God triumphs over sin, Satan, death, and Hell (Rom. ).
Readers, do you, do I, have the faith that is the inwrought work of God in the saving of a sinner? There are false professions, false gospels, false faiths, etc. The standard for the reality of true faith in the professor is a felt conviction of the preciousness of the Lord Jesus Christ as our all in all; a Scriptural and unmistakable evidence of the existence of Divine life in the soul. “Unto you therefore which believe He is precious” (1 Peter 2:7). RCLVC
Worthy Doctrinal and Spiritual Notes and Quotes on Romans 1:16-17
Verse 16. For my own part, was it possible for me to preach before the whole universe at once, I would make no scruple to acknowledge it as my heart's desire and prayer, that I may never be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, and that the doctrines of grace may never be out of fashion with me, so long as they remain in the Bible. I wish to assert the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; and leave God to take care of consequences. —Augustus M. Toplady (1740-1778).
The “evangelism” of the last 60 years has not evangelized. The “revivals” of the last 60 years have not revived; and the “salvation” of the last 60 years has not saved. Why? Because men have not been told who Jesus is and what He did. They have accepted a popular “jesus” that has turned
into a gang of Hell-raising, Sabbath-desecrating church members. But the Jesus of the Bible is not their Lord (this statement was given in the early 1960’s, America LVC). —Rolfe Barnard 1904-1969).
A man may have the tongue of an angel and the heart of a devil. —John Flavel (1628-1691).
The righteous man hath grace beyond expression; the hypocrite hath expression beyond grace. —Ralph Venning (1621-1674).
Preach that Gospel which places the whole of the salvation of a sinner in the Person and finished work of Immanuel. — Gospel Magazine 1817.
How offensive the proclamation of the Cross is today! Preach works and people will applaud you. Preach baptism and you can form your own denomination. Preach church membership and you'll get along fine. Preach social religion—or most anything you want to preach—and people will applaud but God will be offended. But, my brother, if you preach the Cross—proclaim the death of death upon that Cross—preach it in all its offences and shame—preach it in its humiliation—preach it in its goriness, its bloodiness—and then preach the Cross in its victory. I say to you, then God will applaud but the people will be offended. —Rolfe Barnard (1904-1969).
Let me very briefly tell you what I believe preaching Christ and Him crucified is. My friends, I do not believe it is preaching Christ and Him crucified, to give people a batch of philosophy every Sunday morning and evening, and neglect the truths of the Holy Book. I do not believe it is preaching Christ and Him crucified, to leave out the main cardinal doctrines of the Word of God, and preach a religion which is a mist and a haze, without any definite truths whatever.
And I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless you preach what now-a-days is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism. Calvinism is the Gospel and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the Gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor, I think, can we preach the Gospel unless we base it upon the particular redemption which Christ made for His elect and chosen people; nor can I comprehend a Gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation, after having believed. Such a gospel I abhor. The Gospel of the Bible is not such a Gospel as that. We preach Christ and Him crucified. —C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892).
“I am ready to preach the gospel.” You don’t have to teach a drowning man what to say. We preach the Gospel and the Holy Ghost will be left to work in men’s hearts. There’s no pressure, no persuasion, and no psychology to get professors or joiners by decisions. The preacher will preach the Gospel; he will preach the Word of God and will leave people alone, in the hands of the Holy Spirit. —Henry Mahan (born 1926).
What the world hates, the saved Christian glories in. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. ). The offense of the cross, the hated sign of the substitutionary atonement, is the sign of genuine Christianity. We should never tone it down, minimize it, soft-pedal it, apologize for it. It must always be dominant in our religion. Christ is not preached aright unless His shed blood is emphasized as the only way guilty human beings can find peace with the righteous God. We can never advance beyond the cross; we can never outgrow it and go on to other things. It will always be central. —Dr. J. G. Vos (1903-1983).
The mission and death of Christ is restricted to a limited number—to His people, His sheep, His friends, His church, His body—and nowhere extended to all men severally and collectively. Thus Christ is called “Jesus” because He shall save His people from their sins (Matt. ). He is called the Saviour of His body (Eph. ). The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep (John ) and for His friends (John ). He is said to die “that He might gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (John ). It is said that Christ “hath purchased the church with His own blood” (Acts ). If Christ died for every one of Adam’s posterity, why should the Scriptures so often restrict the objects of His death to a few? How could it, with propriety, be said absolutely that Christ is the Saviour of His people and of His body, if He is the Saviour of others also? —Francis Turretin (1623-1687).
Only in eternity will it be known what is implied in the word SAVED. —Joseph C. Philpot (1802-1869).
Reader, would you be righteous in God’s sight? Then you must be righteous in God’s Son. —William Secker (?-1681).
Faith enjoys Christ, and that is Heaven in the human heart. —William Mason (1719-1791).
To find salvation, you must admit you’re lost and cannot find it. —Wylie W. Fulton (born 1939).
If the Lord does not convert you, you will hate Him and His Gospel to the day of your death. —William Tiptaft (1803-1864).
God will have the soul sensible of the bitterness of sin, before it shall taste the sweetness of mercy. —Matthew Mead (1629-1699).
If we are what we’ve always been, we are not saved. —Vance Havner (1901-1986).
To take the invitations, promises, and encouragements addressed to awakened sinners, mourning and seeking souls, and apply them indiscriminately to all men, is a perversion of the word, and giving the children's bread to dogs ... It is when spiritual life is given to the sinner that he is quickened into spiritual sensibilities, and spiritual thirsts and desires are begotten in the soul. This life is in Christ, and He gives it to the sinner, and by its quickening, regenerating, and resurrecting power the sinner is born a second time, resurrected from his death in sin, and holy desires, spiritual appetites, and thirstings are begotten in his soul. ... The true minister of the Gospel wants to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified; the humble, penitent believer wants to hear nothing else, for there is salvation in none other. He is the only name given under heaven among men whereby he must be saved; Acts . This name is the sweetest ever sounded in the ears of the sinner who truly knows and feels his need of a Saviour. —Elder Gregg M. Thompson (1811-?).
Salvation is WHOLLY OF GRACE, not only undeserved but undesired by us until God is pleased to awaken us to a sense of our need of it. And then we find everything prepared that our wants require or our wishes conceive; yea, that He has done exceedingly beyond what we could either ask or think. Salvation is WHOLLY OF THE LORD and bears those signatures of infinite wisdom, power, and goodness which distinguish all His works from the puny imitations of men. It is every way worthy of Himself, a great, a free, a full, a sure salvation. It is great whether we consider the OBJECTS (miserable, Hell-deserving sinners), the END (the restoration of such alienated creatures to His image and favor, to immortal life and happiness) or the MEANS (the incarnation, humiliation, sufferings, and death of His beloved Son). It is
FREE, without exception of persons or cases, without any conditions or qualifications, but such as He, Himself, performs in them and bestows upon them. —John Newton (1725-1807).
Conversion is a deep work—a heart-work. It goes throughout the man, throughout the mind, throughout the members, throughout the entire life. —Joseph Alleine (1634-1668).
Man is not converted because he wills to be, but he wills to be because he is ordained to election. —Augustine (354-430).
Conversion is not the smooth, east-going process some men seem to think it, otherwise man's heart would never have been compared to fallow ground and God's Word to a plough. —John Bunyan (1628-1688).
The original most often puts it that way, believing into Christ. This means a person rolling himself onto Christ, denying self, and trusting his all to Christ Jesus, salvation, sanctification, wisdom, etc. (1 Cor. 1:30). Christ becomes his or her all in all. —Jay Green.
Regeneration is a single act, complete in itself, and never repeated; conversion, as the beginning of holy living, is the commencement of a series, constant, endless and progressive. —A. A. Hodge. (1823-1886).
To be brief, that only is true faith which the Spirit of God seals upon our hearts. — John Calvin. (1509-1564).
One must be ingrafted into Christ before he can accept Him, even before he can be willing to accept Him. And the ingrafting into Christ is an act of God, never of man. As long as the sinner is not ingrafted into Him, he is dead in trespasses and sins. And he cannot, he will not, and cannot will to come to Christ. As sinner, indeed, he is very active. He will resist and reject the Gospel in unbelief. But with a view to salvation he is wholly passive. Christ must come to him, before he can come to Christ. Salvation is of the Lord. It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy (Rom. ). —Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965).
“Repent ye and believe the Gospel” (Mark ). “Testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts ). A contrite spirit and a heart acceptance of the Gospel are inseparably connected, so that wherever the one is mentioned the other is presupposed. For example, take the passage recording the Gospel commission: in Mark 16:16 the emphasis is on “believing,” while in Luke 24:47 it is on “repentance”—the two together explaining the “make disciples” of Matt. 28:19. The one cannot exist without the other: it is just as morally impossible for an impenitent heart to believe, as it is for an unbeliever to repent. There may indeed be a mental assent to the Truth unaccompanied by any brokenness of heart, as there may be natural remorse where no faith exists; but there can be no saving faith where evangelical repentance is absent. —A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
It requires not only a power, but an almighty power, to raise the heart of man to believe. —Richard Sibbes (1577-1635).
Faith in its first act discovers at once with one eye a man to be poor and ungodly, and with the other looks up to Christ’s riches, to Him that justifies the ungodly. So hungering and thirsting after Christ’s righteousness doth imply faith as the bottom of it, for none can so hunger truly but he that sees the true worth and preciousness of Christ. Unto them that believe only is Christ precious. — Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680).
But there must also be the blessing of free justification to satisfy that bad record against the sinner. The slate must be cleansed and the merit of Christ’s righteousness put to the sinner’s account in the record of Heaven and this is done when one is justified by faith. This truth of God's free-grace act in the justification of sinners is essential—Luther called this the truth by which a church stands or falls. In other words, a church or ministry that is not clear on the sinner’s justification by free grace alone is not a true ministry. —Wylie W.
(b. 1939). Fulton
What a marvelous faith this is! Christ Himself calls it “the faith of God” (Mark , margin). It is the Father’s gift in Christ (Eph. 2:8). It is Christ’s work by the power of His Word (John 14:1). It is the Spirit’s fruit by His own omnipotent energy (Gal. 5:22; Eph. 1:17-20). —Thomas Bradbury (1831-1905).
This teaching of life before faith is almost unknown in our day, yet it is obviously true that without spiritual life there can be no faith, no repentance, no conversion, no adoption, and no assurance, justification, or sanctification. Man believes from the heart. Which heart? The new heart! And that new heart is from God the Spirit. For a heart that believes God must be a living heart. The old heart is dead in sins, having no life with which it may act. —Jay Green
Christ’s righteous is called the righteousness of faith, (Rom. 4:13;) not as if faith were our righteousness, either in whole or in part; but because faith receives the righteousness of Christ, puts it on, rejoices in it, and boasts of it. —John Gill (1697-1771).